News / Ottawa

Indigenous Peoples' Court to open in Ottawa

Indigenous Peoples' Courts, sometimes known as Gladue courts, are aimed at finding alternatives to incarceration for Canada's Indigenous population.

Richard Lautens / Torstar News Service

An Indigenous Peoples’ Court, also known as a Gladue court, will be opening in Ottawa.

The court will be the first such court to open in the city.

A memo sent to lawyers and stakeholders said that the Ontario government will be making the announcement at the Elgin Street courthouse on Friday, but did not provide further details about the court.

Per the memo, which Metro has received a copy of, Ontario Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve will be on hand to announce the opening of the court and provide further details regarding its operation.  

Technically, every court in Canada is a Gladue court: since the 1999 R v. Gladue Supreme Court decision, Canadian courts have been required to take steps to mitigate the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian prison system.

In Ontario, this is mostly done through what are called Gladue reports, which are completed after a defendant is found or pleads guilty. They take the personal history of the Indigenous person into account and attempt to find alternatives to incarceration.

But since the introduction of Gladue reports in 2014, the system has been slow, with complaints that reports can take too long to be completed.

Gladue courts, on the other hand, offer a distinct space for Indigenous defendants to have their charges tried. Indigenous individuals can request to have their cases tried in a Gladue court, which are often staffed with elders from the Indigenous community, rather than a traditional court.

The first distinct Gladue court was established in Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse in 2001. In 2016, an Indigenous Peoples' Court began hearing cases in Thunder Bay, using a model that saw two community elders (one male and one female) hearing cases, with a bent towards restorative justice and away from incarceration.

Details as to when the court will begin hearing cases and the number of judges that will comprise the court, were not available.

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